The fiscal cliff is looming at the end of the year, and we will be hearing more about it as we get closer to the end of the year.

My predictions regarding the fiscal cliff.

  • A deal will get done, but it might not be until early January.  The new congressional session begins on January 3rd.  This may result in congress having to re-do some of the earlier work, due to the changed in the membership of the congress.
  • The payroll tax holiday will end.  Extending this long term would probably be a bad idea anyway, since this is money that goes into Social Security.  If we’re reducing the funds going into Social Security, we’re increasing the risk that Social Security will be a viable program in the future.  This may even be phased in over 2-3 years to allow families to slowly adjust to the lower take home pay.
  • The Bush era tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 per year will remain in place.
  • Rates for families making more than $250,000 will rise, but not quite to the levels they were at before the Bush era cuts.  Maybe slightly above the midway point between the old and new rates.  Yes, I am predicting an actual compromise.
  • The capital gains rate will rise, perhaps to a maximum rate of 18-20%.  One misconception about capital gains is that they are a form of double taxation.  This can be the case, if the rise in a stock’s price is attributable to the company retaining/reinvesting earnings rather than paying dividends.  However, in many cases a stock price rises for other reasons.  Sometimes the company has never made a profit, but has a very promising future.  In this case, corporate taxes have never been paid.  Additionally, capital gains can arise from the ownership of non-stock assets (real estate and physical objects).

Up to this point, both sides have been hesitant to budge very much, although some Republicans have said they would support a tax increase on the wealthy.  Without action, tax rates for everyone will go up on January 1st.  In essence, this is a game of high stakes chicken.  It may even make sense, politically, to wait until 2013 to pass the legislation.  If the legislation passes this year, before the rates revert, it would just be an extension of the earlier cuts.  If the legislation passed after the rates have already reverted, it would be an actual cut of those new rates.  Very little difference in the grand scheme of things, but a big difference on the political trail in 2014.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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